The sub-prime tentacles reach deeper

The sub-prime tentacles reach deeper

August 28, 2007

Schnurman's sales success: Play to your strengthsMark Schnurmanstrong referral networks, cultivate existing relationships, great listener, natural salesperson
I love interviewing loan officers. It offers the chance to meet
some successful people and learn what makes them tick. To ensure
that I hire the right person, I proceed with a line of questioning
designed to outline the candidate's expectations of the job and how
the candidate plans on building his business. The company I work
for, GFI, tracks the performance of the candidates we hire and
train, and pays particular attention to how they build their
businesses. Our research tells us that the loan officers with the
highest performance are those who build strong referral networks
with real estate agents, and so we try to hire people with those
skill sets.
Sales managers all have business models that they believe will
enable loan officers to succeed and often try to push people into
their models. Unfortunately, many times, loan officers are hired
who are not capable of executing our plans. Managers need to
understand the strengths, weaknesses and competencies of their
people and possess the skills and flexibility to help them develop
customized business plans.
Loan officers who know and play to their strengths succeed;
those who do not know their strengths fail. No amount of training
or coaching will allow you to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Our personalities are more or less set in stone. Over time, people
do not change, but become more of who they are. Some people are
meant to be salespeople in our models and others are not--period.
That is not a value judgment, but a reality.
So there are two choices. You can hire only those people who
clearly fit the model or hire people and help them create a
customized plan that they can execute. At GFI, most of the people
we hire fit our model. However, we do occasionally hire loan
officers whose paths diverge from our own.
Let me share two elucidating cases of loan officers I recently
hired. We conducted a new loan officer training class with about 10
new loan officers. Our training is world class and focuses on
networking and developing relationships with referral sources such
as real estate agents, CPAs and attorneys.
During the training, it became clear that what I was advocating
was not resonating with Steve and Susan (names changed to protect
the innocent). While they both worked hard during the training to
learn the marketing approaches and sales pitches, they had
difficulty getting their arms around the business plans that called
for a significant amount of outside sales.
During the interview process, Steve made it clear that he did
not want to build his business through GFI's traditional methods
and was hired based on his contacts. Steve is an introvert and a
great listener, but not a natural salesperson. He has good
contacts, including his wife, who is a top agent at a residential
Playing to Steve's strengths, we developed a plan to have him
meet with several members of his network each day. I was somewhat
dubious as to whether he would succeed, because experience teaches
that the vast majority of loan officers are not able to transition
their contacts into business. Steve proved me wrong. Steve
understood that his strengths laid in his ability to cultivate
existing relationships, customer service and structuring loans.
Outside sales was the wrong fit, but building on the strong
relationships that he possessed, he has been able to close about $3
million a month in purchase business.
In contrast, Susan is aggressive, direct and forceful. Susan is
fiercely protective of her time and felt that outside sales was
wasteful because she could contact more people over the phone. We
developed a plan that allowed Susan to leverage her strengths.
Breaking our traditional model, we developed a plan that allowed
Susan to identify and contact real estate agents, CPAs and
attorneys. She makes calls wisely and aggressively, and is
originating and closing loans. She knew her strengths and played to
So what are your strengths? Are you better face to face or over
the phone? Are you good at the people side of the business or the
deal side? Do you prefer A-paper, Alt-A or sub-prime? Do you work
better with real estate agents or CPAs? Define and focus on your
strengths and free yourself up to succeed!
Mark Schnurman is director of business development for New
York-based GFI
Mortgage Bankers. He may be reached at (212) 837-4645 or e-mail